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Surprising Science

NASA recorded what Saturn sounds like. Hear it for yourself!

NASA recorded an interplanetary exchange. And it sounds not entirely unlike the beginning to a certain Daft Punk song.
Original Saturn picture by NASA/JPL, crude illustration by the author.

Not to sound like an intergalactic hipster here, but: dude, how can you call yourself a true planet fan if have you haven’t heard Saturn? 

You may remember the Cassini spacecraft’s epic—and planned—crash into Saturn in September of last year. Now, like Tupac, Cassini is seeing a posthumous release of sorts. Y’see, Cassini managed to detect an epic exchange between Saturn and its moon Enceladus, so epic that you could detect it over radio waves. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA (go Pasadena Bulldogs!) shortened 16 minutes of audio into 29 seconds.

The results are pretty cool, sounding not entirely unlike the beginning to the Daft Punk song “Touch“. The literally-out-of-this-world-ha-ha sounds are actually made by Saturn’s magnetosphere. Earth has one, too; magnetospheres protect planets from radiation and the constant barrage of charged particles thrown at us (and Saturn, and a few other planets) by the Sun.

What do we gain from this? Um, perhaps if you had to recognize Saturn in a dark room you’d now know what it sounds like. Sound doesn’t really travel in space as there’s no air—so it’s true that nobody can hear you scream in space—so perhaps this Saturn song is sort of like a super rare release. (Could Saturn be any more hipster? I mean, with all the rings, the multiple hangers-on, and the hot air, our galactic neighbor is kind of coming across like late-period Johnny Depp.) 


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